During the IS occupation of Iraq's Mosul, secret sessions were held for women to exorcise demons — despite the IS deeming them black magic and banning any alternative religious practices.
Judit Neurink, Mosul
"Women still come asking for the exorcism sessions," says Othman, the muezzin who, five times a day, calls the faithful to pray at the Haiba Khatoon Mosque in the center of Mosul. He did the same during the three years Iraq's second city was occupied by IS and recalls how women would flock to the mosque for the sessions held especially for them to evict djinns, as the Quran calls demons or supernatural creatures.
Othman is sitting in the mosque's gardens, where men are performing their prayers. This busy mosque near the University of Mosul is used a lot by traders, students and travelers who miss one of the set prayer times.
It seems too busy a place for demon eviction sessions to have been held there, which hardly anyone knew about. Imams who returned to their mosques after IS left deny any knowledge of the practice anywhere during the occupation. "Most people in Mosul had no idea what was going on here," Othman said. "Perhaps only those who regularly came to this mosque to pray." The sessions were held between the midday and 3 p.m. prayer sessions, and only in the women's section. "And the women only used the side entrance."
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